The right move at the right time
Even though everyone thinks Marco Rojas should flee to Europe, I'm not so sure. So when is the right time for a player to leave?
This season we-ve already seen some talented young players tempted by European clubs, and we-re starting to see some already over there proving themselves. But when is the right time for a player to go?
Each case has to be judged on its own merits. We-ve had some that have gone over at the right time and succeeded and we-ve had players who have gone over at the wrong time and success has not happened for them. The timing and the club have to be right for the individual.
Robbie Kruse, who has been doing well in the Bundesliga, really started progressing once he left Brisbane. That-s nothing against the Roar but he had a few issues off the park, went down to Melbourne on his own and had to grow up fast, and from there he-s gone from strength to strength.
After moving overseas he-s being allowed to develop because he-s playing regularly and we can see the impact he-s now having. Kruse is an example for other young players because he wasn-t getting patted on the back every day of his short career; he had to go through tough times and when you have a player that can go through that and bounce back, you can see he-s got a future.
But it doesn-t happen overnight. The likes of Adam Sarota, Tommy Oar and Michael Zullo, boys who have been in Europe for three years, working day-in-day-out, getting a game here and there. They-re learning and earning respect and serving their apprenticeship.
For a footballer, each career choice is very important, particularly because the A-League is getting stronger. If you do make a poor choice and go to an overseas country that isn-t the right fit, coming back to Australia is getting that much harder because squads are already jam-packed and then there-s another 10 players queuing up.
I can only speak from my experience and for my generation, people like Tony Vidmar, Kevin Muscat, Mark Viduka to a certain degree, Brett Emerton, Jason Culina.
Tony Vidmar had played more than 130 games and was 25-years-old before he went overseas. Was he ready? Damn right. Players need to be ready to take that next step and it-s not going to be after one season.
A good example of this right now is Marco Rojas at Melbourne Victory. There seems to be a general assumption that he-ll be off to Europe when this season ends. There-s certainly a big chance of that happening - but is it the right time? Debatable.
Rojas has played, what, 19 games this season? Last season he struggled with confidence, but this year Victory have come good under Ange and he-s blossomed but does one good season mean you-re ready to go overseas? I have my doubts.
I-d like to see him have 50-60 games at a decent level, before he goes to European football. He definitely has that potential to go to one of those top football countries. But when he gets there and one of those experienced players comes up against him - and I know people will say I-m being old-school here, but it-s not, it-s professional football - someone will give him a kick up the arse, and I-ve not seen yet how he would respond to that.
Don-t misunderstand the point; I-m not saying the game should be more physical but Victory-s style of play keeps him away from all those things, and in Europe it-s dog-eat-dog. Not only do you have to be better, it-s so much harder to be able to kick on from that and develop.
There-s no doubt Rojas is a great talent; he-s exciting, he-s scored some great goals and looks full of confidence - but there‘s a question mark whether now-s the right time or if he needs at least another season at Victory to replicate what he-s done this season.
It-s understandable that the lure of Europe is so attractive to young players but they should be focusing on keeping their feet on the ground. If you-re doing well for your club on a consistent basis, you-ll get people knocking on your door and you-ll be ab;e to decide which club will be good for the next part of your development, and you-ll be part of that club-s development.
I went overseas when I was 17 and had the opportunity to sign for Arsenal or Glasgow Rangers, both were three-year contracts. I chose Rangers because I felt that in my development I would have the opportunity to break through quicker - and £300 a week wasn-t a king-s ransom. But you have to set yourself targets; mine was sign as a youth team player, reserves, first-team - how quickly can I get that done?
I debuted as an 18-year-old in my first season at Rangers, and played every season during my first six years - but make no mistake, I was a squad player. It took me six years to establish myself as a starting XI player.
It was great because I was still involved and playing a decent amount of games and continually developing but I didn-t have overnight success. I-ve heard Holger Osieck say it and I certainly say it - you have to serve an apprenticeship. And that doesn-t mean cleaning boots and toilets; you just have to earn your stripes and respect.
There are plenty of stories of failures these days - and by that I don-t mean bad players but players making the wrong choice. Nowadays with Asia, is it about the money? If so, that-s fine but if you want to play in the national team, unless you-re playing in the J.League, potentially you could miss out on going to a World Cup. Players need to be well informed so that they understand the impact their decisions will have on their career.
That-s why I-m so proud to see Robbie Kruse flourishing in Germany. It-s great to see his inclusion with the Socceroos but also to see his club football, where he-s playing against top-notch German teams, and making a real impression. Has Robbie Kruse developed into a very good player? Damn right, but this is just the start. His next challenge is to be a standout in his team and do well week in, week out.